Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
IN RE SYNERGY NATURAL RESOURCES, LLC, Trailers for Less, and Gary M. Riebschlager
Mandamus Proceeding 
Sitting: Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez,
Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice.
C. Martinez, Justice
Synergy Natural Resources, L.L.C., Trailers for Less, and
Gary M. Riebschlager filed a petition for writ of mandamus,
complaining the trial court abused its discretion in granting
real party in interest Circle Bar A Inc.'s motion to
disqualify counsel. We conditionally grant the petition for
writ of mandamus.
Bar A Inc. ("CBA") filed suit against Synergy
Natural Resources, L.L.C. ("Synergy") asserting
claims for suit on a sworn account and breach of contract for
alleged failure to pay transfer and storage fees for two
chassis trailers. Synergy claims it was never served with
CBA's petition, and on May 4, 2017, a no-answer default
judgment awarding damages and attorney's fees was
rendered in favor of CBA. On July 14, 2017, the trial court
issued a writ of execution against the two trailers held by
CBA. On July 18, 2017, Synergy was attempting to retrieve the
trailers from CBA on behalf of their owner, Trailers for
Less. At that time, Synergy learned that a default judgment
had been entered against it and later learned a writ of
execution had been issued and the trailers were seized by the
Bexar County Sheriff's Office.
August 4, 2017, attorney Gary M. Riebschlager filed a motion
to dissolve writ of execution on behalf of intervenor and
interested third party, Trailers for Less, which owns the two
trailers at issue. Attached to the motion was the affidavit
of Michelle Walker, custodian of business records for
Trailers for Less, who stated that Synergy leased the
trailers from Trailers for Less.
August 10, 2017, a hearing was held on the motion to dissolve
writ of execution filed by Trailers for Less. During the
hearing, CBA presented a motion to disqualify Riebschlager
from representing both Synergy and Trailers for Less pursuant
to Rule 1.06. CBA's attorney informed the
trial court he had learned through email communication with
Riebschlager that Riebschlager was representing two clients
whose interests were adverse-Synergy and Trailers for Less.
CBA argued that both entities claimed to own the trailers at
issue, and their conflicting positions should disqualify
Riebschlager from representing either. No evidence was
admitted during the hearing relative to the motion to
disqualify other than the email correspondence between
CBA's attorney and Riebschlager which was also attached
to the motion to disqualify.
conclusion of the hearing, the trial court pronounced the
motion to disqualify granted. Riebschlager asked the court if
he could file a response to the motion to disqualify, since
he was not served with the motion prior to the hearing. The
trial court allowed Riebschlager to file a response. The
trial court subsequently signed an order granting CBA's
motion to disqualify Riebschlager from representing Synergy
and Trailers for Less. The order is file-stamped August 10,
2017 at 3:38 p.m., but was signed on "August 11,
2017." On August 11, 2017, on behalf of Synergy,
Riebschlager filed a motion for new trial of the court's
no-answer default judgment signed on May 4, 2017. The motion
is file-stamped 2:27 p.m. An attorney affiliated with
Riebschlager's office, Martina Cartwright, added her
signature to the motion for new trial on behalf of Synergy,
and also filed a notice of appearance and motion to dissolve
writ of execution on behalf of Trailers for Less.
August 18, 2017, CBA filed its motion for sanctions and
contempt against Riebschlager, as well as a motion to
disqualify as to Martina Cartwright's appearance. A
hearing was held on the motion for sanctions but Riebschlager
did not appear; his motion for continuance was not
considered. The trial court granted the motion for sanctions
and ordered Riebschlager to pay $2, 500 in attorney's
fees. The trial court also struck Synergy's motion for
new trial as to the no-answer default judgment filed by
relief is an extraordinary remedy. In re Sw. Bell Tel.
Co., L.P., 235 S.W.3d 619, 623 (Tex. 2007) (orig.
proceeding). Mandamus will issue only to correct a clear
abuse of discretion when there is no other adequate remedy by
appeal. See In re Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 148
S.W.3d 124, 135-36 (Tex. 2004) (orig. proceeding); Walker
v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839 (Tex. 1992) (orig.
proceeding) (quoting Johnson v. Fourth Court of
Appeals, 700 S.W.2d 916, 917 (Tex. 1985) (orig.
proceeding)). A trial court abuses its discretion if it
reaches a decision so arbitrary and unreasonable that it
constitutes a clear and prejudicial error of law, or if it
clearly fails to correctly analyze or apply the law. In
re Cerberus Capital Mgmt., L.P., 164 S.W.3d 379, 382
(Tex. 2005) (orig. proceeding); Walker, 827 S.W.2d
at 839. To satisfy the clear abuse of discretion standard,
the relator must show "that the trial court could
reasonably have reached only one decision." Liberty
Nat'l First Ins. Co. v. Akin, 927 S.W.2d 627, 630
(Tex. 1996) (orig. proceeding) (quoting Walker, 827
S.W.2d at 840).
is appropriate to correct an erroneous order disqualifying
counsel because there is no adequate remedy by appeal. In
re Sanders, 153 S.W.3d 54, 56 (Tex. 2004) (orig.
proceeding); In re Sandoval, 308 S.W.3d 31, 32 (Tex.
App.-San Antonio 2009, orig. proceeding). Disqualification is
a severe remedy because it can cause immediate harm by
depriving a party of its chosen counsel and disrupting court
proceedings. In re Sanders, 153 S.W.3d at 57. Courts
must adhere to an exacting standard when considering motions
to disqualify so as to discourage their use as a dilatory
trial tactic. Spears v. Fourth Court of Appeals, 797
S.W.2d 654, 656 (Tex. 1990) (orig. proceeding). The party
moving for disqualification must establish with specificity a
violation of one or more of the disciplinary rules.
Id. The disciplinary rules provide guidelines for
deciding disqualification issues; however, they are not
controlling standards. In re Drake, 195 S.W.3d 232,
235 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2006, orig. proceeding). In
"appropriate circumstances" a lawyer may be
disqualified even if he has not violated a specific
disciplinary rule. In re Nitla S.A. de C.V., 92
S.W.3d 419, 422 (Tex. 2002) (orig. proceeding). By ...